A friend mentioned Twitter's troubles, and said that Twitter lacks a real identity and a reason to exist that distinguishes itself from other services. That got me thinking about social networking generally and the purpose of various sites, which is what inspired this post. What purpose do the sites serve?
Facebook -- This is the big dawg. Everyone wants to be Facebook. So what is the purpose? Pretty much whatever you want it to be. Do you want to post a bunch of political stuff? Do you want to post about theology? Do you want to keep it limited to posting stuff about what you're doing, pictures, and so forth? Do you want your posts to be public or more limited? Do you want to play games? Do you simply want to keep up with friends and family and not post hardly anything yourself? You can do any of that. Your interaction can be with the public or only with your friends. Facebook's biggest strength is versatility.
Twitter -- Twitter does something Facebook does not do: By default, you can follow, retweet or "mention" anyone else. It pretty much levels everyone on the platform. If you simply want to get your voice out there in a public way, Twitter is the quickest way to do it - especially if you get retweeted by someone with a much bigger audience. Twitter's 140 character limit makes it ideal for a "hot take." That character limit is both the platform's greatest strength and greatest weakness.
Tumblr -- Tumblr is kind of like "Twitter Plus." You cannot mention people the way you do on Twitter, but it is more versatile. I am not sure Tumblr should be classified as a social networking site or as a blog hosting service with social networking features. Tumblr is the service that probably has the least identity.
Google Plus -- Google tried to integrate both Facebook and Twitter. To be brutally honest, there is not much point to being on Google Plus. Google integrated Plus with Blogspot, but it was too little, too late.
Instagram -- Share photos. That's it. Instagram knows what it is, and has built quite a following based on that. You can share photos with the public, or only with your followers.
Honorable mention: MySpace -- MySpace was Facebook before Facebook went public, and served some of the same purposes. It never grew or offered more, so it has withered.
Honorable mention: MyFamily.com -- No link here, as the site is dead. The purpose here was simple: A private, invitation-only service to keep up with family. You could post pictures, news, recipes or reviews, and everyone can see it. While it lasted, it was a great service. MF came before any of the other social networks, and was great for keeping up with family scattered over a large area. What most likely killed MF was the growth of Facebook, which offers everything MF did but without an annual subscription fee or limits on storage.
Social networking services offer different things, and each has its benefits. Which ones to use is entirely dependent on what you want to use it for. Except for Google Plus, which really has no use.
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